EXCLUSIVE!: Developer revives controversial plan for floating power plant near Williamsburg

EXCLUSIVE!: Developer revives controversial plan for floating power plant near Williamsburg
Photo by Louise Wateridge

Call it a power play.

A developer has quietly revived a plan to build a floating power plant in a channel off the Brooklyn Navy Yard, more than a decade after local activists shut down its last attempt in court. The foes say they won the case arguing the public wasn’t given enough chance to comment — and were shocked to learn the gas-burning generator is back in the works and the end of the public comment period is once again just days away.

“I think they’re definitely trying to sneak it by because why don’t we know about it? Somebody should have been notified,” said Kathleen Gilrain of activist group Stop the Barge, who lives near the channel on Kent Avenue in Williamsburg and only found out about the proposal last Wednesday.

Stop the Barge won a lawsuit against the state Department of Environmental Conservation in 2003 that halted Sef Industries’ plans for the six-story, 79-megawatt natural gas generator in the Wallabout Channel, successfully arguing it hadn’t done an adequate review on how it would affect the surrounding environment.

Now Sef — which originally stood for Sunset Energy Fleet, and once tried to build an even larger plant off Sunset Park that was also thwarted by local activists and pols — is asking the Army Corps of Engineers for permission to construct pipes to permanently secure a 220-foot by 100-foot barge and sell the energy in the case of natural disasters or attacks, according to documents it filed last month.

In a recent pitch to sell power from the proposed plant to the state, Sef honchos claimed they have all the permits they need to go ahead with the big, buoyant battery. The public comment period for the application ends April 30.

The activists and local officials railed against the previous plan because they believed it would be loud and cause air pollution that would make locals sick — especially the diesel fuel used to partially power the barge.

Planning for a plant: The developer included these plans for the floating power plant in the Wallabout Channel with its application.
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Gilrain believes it will be especially potent for the thousands of future residents moving into yet-to-be built developments across from the channel near Kent Avenue and S. 11th Street and at the old Domino Sugar Factory.

“Imagine being in a building when you have power plant stacks in front of your window,” she said.

The activists have now contacted their lawyer and say they plan to battle the barge once again.

The Army Corps of Engineers is encouraging anyone with reservations about the plan to send a comment to its Manhattan office by April 30. The comments will be taken into account when deciding on the application, according to documents.

Sef Industries did not return requests for comment.

You can send your comments to:
US Army Corps of Engineers, NY District, Attn: Regulatory Branch, 26 Federal Plaza, Room 1937 New York, NY 10278.

Reach reporter Lauren Gill at lgill@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260–2511. Follow her on Twitter @laurenk_gill
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